No one Hides a Light under a Bushel

(Luke 8:16-18)

What is it that everybody on this earth thinks they have? This is not about possessions or any of the material things of this life. There is a deep meaning in the few words of the above section of scripture.

Take heed how you hear

This is a warning from the Lord. Be careful what you listen to and take in. Be wary of what you hear, for not all things are for the good.

There are many strange and diverse teachings on this plant that people follow. There are many religions, cults, teachings and philosophies that people will follow in the belief that they will be better off than they are. But not all of these teachings do lead to a better life.

They have “Itching Ears”

The Bible tells us that people will wander off into all kinds of false teachings because they have “itching ears.” (2 Timothy 4:3) Not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. People want to hear something new all of the time. They seek out the latest news and gossip, and there are whole industries built around the need to feed people their daily fix of the latest information. Their ears “itch” and they “scratch” them by listening to the latest information, news or whatever.

This happens in religions too. Many people move from one church to another seeking the latest ministry as if there is something new in Christianity. And there are ministers who take advantage of this, who by promoting some new approach will draw the people in.

What is the truth?

The truth of Christianity has not changed for two thousand years since Jesus first proclaimed it. The Bible says that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (Hebrew 13:8)

So if Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever” do you think the ministry of the truth has changed? Is there a newer version of the New Covenant that has only appeared recently? Are there new books to be written and included into the Bible?

Of course not! But when people wander off into the pursuit of something supposedly new, they may be following after something that is not of the Lord, which brings us back to being careful what you hear. If you wander away from the truth, then what ARE you listening to? And what is the impact of not listening to the truth?

What do people think they have?

Every person on this earth thinks that they have…life! But if they follow myths, cults, philosophies and false religions they do not even have life. They may have a few years of life on this planet, but they will not have eternal life free from worry, trouble, sickness and death. They will not have the life that is on offer to those who choose to follow Jesus.

The life we have in this world now is but a fading moment of time compared to eternity with God. The life we have today is beset with all manner of problems, struggles and misfortune. Their is evil, injustice and sin to contend with now and we are limited by death. But when the Lord comes to take his people there will be none of those things to affect us. We will live with him into eternity, free from all the chains that bind us in this time and age.

But those who do not follow the Lord; who choose not to listen carefully to what he says, have only this short, fading and problematic existence, without hope and with no future. Do not fall into the trap of seeking something new. Instead learn the things that are of God and seek his ways, for that leads to life.

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Conditions to Receive Eternal Life

(Mark 10:17-22)

What must you do to have eternal life? This is an interesting question. I am sure it has gone through the minds of all mankind at some time for death is the one inevitable part of life that no man can escape.

Some people have made a business of eternal life. There are companies that provide services to cryogenically freeze the bodies of dead people in the hope that at some future time science will provide a cure for whatever killed them. They believe that at some point in time they could then be healed and restored to life.

eternal-lifeBut death is not a matter of the physical being. Death is the separation of the spirit of a man from his physical body. Science might find a cure for all manner of diseases, but they will never learn how to put the spirit of a man back into a body once they have been separated.

Genesis 2:7 tells us that, “…the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground.” At that point there was no life in man but he was just a body of flesh. Then the same scripture continues saying God, “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” It was an act of God that gave life to a man, but it was an act of man through sin that took that life away.

Had man not sinned he would not die but would have had eternal life. But Ezekial 18:20 tells us, “The soul that sins shall die.” And Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is sin that took away our opportunity to keep eternal life. And it is sin that separates us from God and in this age will continue to cause people to die, which no matter of science will be able to reverse for science does not work in the spiritual realm but the physical.

But the process to receive eternal life is not unknown. Jesus tells us what is required in this section of Mark 10. A man came to him asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Verse 17) Jesus proceeded to quote six of the commandments given to Moses under the law. The man replied saying, “‘Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.’ And Jesus looking upon him loved him.” (Verses 20-21) At this point the man had met the requirements to receive eternal life. These are the words of Jesus and they show that those who keep the laws of God will receive eternal life.

There are some who disagree with this position saying that there is no life under the law. However that is not what Jesus showed here in this section. Those who keep the laws of God will receive eternal life.

However Jesus then goes on to show there is a higher way. It is the road to perfection as he showed in the Matthew version of this same discussion. He said there, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

The key to perfection was not the selling of all your property as he advised this man, but to “come, follow me.” For this man, wealth was a problem because it would distract him from following Christ. For many people, striving for wealth is a distraction and we know from other scriptures that it can lead people away from God for, “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Not every person has this same problem. But every person needs to set their priority on following Jesus if they are to find the path to perfection. Following Jesus is a higher path than just following the law. But there is eternal life in following the law as Jesus showed.

So to answer the question, “What must I do to have eternal life?” The answer is…keep the laws of God, and specifically those he outlined here in Mark 10. Some will say it is impossible to keep the laws of God, and they are right. But Jesus specified only six of the laws and these are not hard to keep. They form the basis of morality for most races, religions and cultures and if they are kept will lead to eternal life.

But Jesus provides a better way for his path leads not just to eternal life but to perfection where the law becomes unnecessary. A perfect man does not need the law for they will not break it by nature. That is the path that Jesus has set before us if we are able to follow it.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by: Abdulhamid Al Fadhly

The Christian Value Proposition

(Mark 8:34-38)

Yesterday I wrote about what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life. Overnight I felt there was more that needed to be said, especially in relation to the second question Jesus posed. He said, “What can a man give in return for his life?” (Verse 37) Jesus actually answered that question in this section, and has also answered it elsewhere, so I would like to address this question further.

fair-valueBefore doing so we need to understand what he is talking about when speaking of profit. I touched on this yesterday, but overnight had more information and insight given to me by the Lord.

When man talks about profit he is talking about something of value. In this world every person spends their time whether they know it or not, seeking value. When we work we are seeking value, wages so we can buy things we need. When we buy something we are exchanging one thing of value, our work effort converted into money, for something else of value, the goods or services being purchased.

Money is only the medium of exchange. The real value in the transaction is in the work we perform and the time we put into working, in exchange for goods and services to satisfy our needs; food, shelter, clothing, entertainment or whatever.

In everything we do in life we are looking for a value proposition that is acceptable to us and the other party we are dealing with. Basically there are three types of value proposition. When we are satisfied with the exchange of value we have a “fair value” transaction. If we think we have paid too much for something we feel “ripped off.” On the other hand if we believe the value of the goods or services is greater than what we have paid, we believe we have a “bargain.”

Now when Jesus asked, “What can a man give in return for his life?” I have often thought of this as sort of a rhetorical question. As I considered this overnight I realised it isn’t. What the Lord asks of man to give in return for his life IS his life! That is, if we are to receive eternal life the Lord is seeking us to forsake the things of this life that would lead us astray and away from the Lord.

In a nutshell, the Lord is seeking our obedience to the word of life so that we can receive life eternal. He says as much in this same section. Verse 35 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” That is, whoever would seek the things of this life, wealth, riches, power, material possessions and so on, will lose the opportunity of eternal life. All the trappings of this world are of this world and not of God.

However the second half of this scripture says that anyone who will forgo all the trappings of this life and the world as we know it for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel will receive his eternal life. Is this consistent with other scriptures? Yes it is. For we see in the following scriptures from Matthew 13:44-46 this same sentiment expressed.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In both these parables the two men discovered something of great value that they desperately wanted to possess. In order to gain this thing of great value they went and sold everything they had so they could own it. The value of the treasure and the pearl were so enormous that they outshone the value of everything else they possessed and everything else was completely insignificant by comparison.

That is what entry to the kingdom of God is like. The opportunity of eternal life so exceeds anything on this earth that the value of it makes anything else seem worthless. So in answer to the question Jesus posed saying, “What can a man give in return for his life?” the answer is that we must be prepared to give up everything in this world and of this life to receive the far more valuable treasure of eternal life.

Coming back to the value proposition, is this a “rip-off,” or a “fair value trade” or is it a “bargain”? The truth is that there is one other value proposition that is better again and the gospel of Jesus fits into that category. The only thing better than a “bargain” is to also get a “bonus.” What we are trading our life in this world for is a life into eternity. By any measure that is a great bargain. We are trading a life of typically sixty to eighty years in a world full of sin, trouble, pressure, stress, suffering and anxiety for a life into eternity without any of those things. That has to be the greatest bargain of all time.

BonusBut it gets better because there is a bonus as well. By following the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of the truth we also get a better standard of life here and now. We get a great treasure in this world, not in a monetary sense, but in the things that really matter in this world. In Jesus we have peace, security, joy, love, happiness and the knowledge that any and every problem we may come up against we can hand over to Jesus for he cares about us. Now that’s what I call a bonus!

People chase money, wealth and power in the hope of have peace, happiness and security, but money and possessions can never provide these things. Money and possessions can be lost, stolen and destroyed as we have seen in the recent financial crises around the world. Money cannot be relied upon, but God can. If we want happiness, peace and security then we need to come to Jesus for these things do not exist in a reliable form anywhere else.

It seems the church has fallen for the same trap as the world. Those ministers who preach a wealth ministry are basically telling their flock that they cannot find happiness and security in God. They are replacing the God of Creation and Jesus Christ with the false god of this world, money. There is no security in money as the value of currency is at the whim of the markets. Some years ago I travelled around the USA when the Australian dollar was worth around fifty US cents. Today the Aus dollar is worth around US$1-06 because of the financial crisis. This dramatic shift was caused by the greed of a few financiers who have brought the global economy to the brink of bankruptcy for their own gain.

Should you then rely on money as a saviour? Can you rely on the dollar for security when it can be so quickly devalued? No. And neither should it be preached as the will of God for us to be rich. These wealth ministers have fallen into the trap of the church at La-odice’a written about in Revelation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Thinking they are rich they have missed the truth. The gold they need to buy from God is the knowledge of the truth so they can be truly rich, not in monetary terms, but in spiritual terms.

We must seek his kingdom first and then we will be in a position to receive the greatest bargain of all time and the bonus that goes with it. Eternal life in God’s kingdom and a life of peace, happiness and security now. That is the real value proposition of Christianity that is on offer to all of mankind. Who in their right mind would pass up on such a bargain? Nobody, but many still will and do for they are blinded by the trinkets of the here and now rather than the greater value that is on offer in the future.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu)

Where there is Life there is Hope

(Matthew 12:15-21)

Jesus left the area knowing that the Pharisees were taking counsel and conspiring how to destroy him. But still his fame and reputation grew, for the people came to him and all who were sick and infirm he healed.

However he was not seeking fame or notoriety, for in all cases he ordered the people not to make him known. This was not merely a case of self-preservation, knowing the malice of the scribes and Pharisees, but it was his nature. It was also that the prophecies about him would be fulfilled.

In vs. 19 we see, “He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets.” In this we see that he was not trying to be seen to be someone of importance, even though Jesus was the single most important person to ever walk on the earth. He was after all the Son of God. Instead though we see that he didn’t blow his own trumpet. He did not try to market himself as people do today, nor did he self-promote in any way at all. Instead his words and deeds spoke for him. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:25, “So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden.”

Jesus also came to level the playing field so that all men would have access to God. Prior to his coming, Israel was the chosen people of God. They received the law and had the prophets and to them were given the promises of the Lord. But in the New Covenant we see that the door was opened for the Gentiles as well so that everyone has access to life. We see in vs. 18, “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles,” and again in vs. 21, “and in his name will the Gentiles hope.” So it is in Christ that the reconciliation of all men to God has been achieved.

Paul wrote about this reconciliation of the Gentiles and the Israelites in this way, “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:12-14) And God has reconciled us to himself through Christ (Ephesians 2:16) and also given us the ministry of reconciliation to preach to the world, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

So now we see that all men regardless of race or genealogy are equals in Christ. We are all on the same level and all can approach the throne of God through Jesus Christ. There is no longer any distinction, we are all now the same. Once we were sinners but have now been set free from our sins in Christ Jesus through faith in his resurrection and the power of God. Romans 10:12-13 shows this saying, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” We may not all have been children of Israel in the flesh and able to receive the promises of God, but we can all become children of the spiritual Israel in Christ and thus become children of God.

Finally we see that Jesus is gentle. In Matthew 12:20 it says, “…he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick, till he brings justice to victory.” By this he is saying that where there is life there is hope. If a person is bruised or suffering, he does not reject or ignore them, nor break them like a plant bruised and ready to be uprooted. Instead he offers help, care, healing and support to try to restore and strengthen. Where there is even a glimmer of light in a person, like a smouldering wick, he does not extinguish the light, but instead hopes that it will be fanned and become fully alight. If there is any chance that a person will come to him for reconciliation to God, he offers full opportunity to do so. No one is rejected, no one is left out who seeks or shows even the slightest desire to come to him.

A good example of this we see in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. We see that when the prodigal son finally came to his senses and returned to his father broken and repentant, the father did not wait for him, but seeing him in the distance he ran to meet him. Jesus is the same. If we begin to approach him, even from a distance he will meet us on the way to help and guide us. Where there is life there is hope and our hope is in Jesus Christ and the redeeming power of his word.